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Wire Grill-Cleaning Brushes Can Pose Food Safety Hazard

6 injuries in past year

Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes are finding their way into people’s food — and down their throats, according to a new report.

Between August of 2011 and June of 2012, six people went to the hospital with internal injuries from wire bristles lodged in their necks or stomachs, according to this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All six of the victims reported eating grilled food before their injuries occurred. Three of them experienced immediate pain upon swallowing the adulterated food, and were later found to have a piece of wire lodged in their throats.

These three people included one woman age 46 and two men ages 50 and 64.

The other patients — three men ages 31, 35 and 50 — experienced abdominal pain shortly after eating.

In two of these patients, the bristle was found lodged near the small intestine, having punctured the intestinal wall. Doctors performed immediate surgery on both patients to remove the foreign objects. In the other patient, the wire had not broken through the intestine but was pushing on the patient’s bladder. That wire piece was removed through a colonoscopy.

“Awareness of this potential injury among healthcare professionals is critical to facilitate timely diagnosis and treatment,” says the report.

CDC also warned the public to use caution to avoid ingesting wire bristles while grilling. Consumers should make sure to check grill surfaces for wire pieces before cooking, it says. Retailers are also urged to examine brush designs to minimize the likelihood of pieces coming loose.

Approximately 80,000 people were treated at hospitals after ingesting foreign objects in 2010, according to CDC. Before 2012, only two incidents involving ingestion of a wire bristle from a grill-cleaning brush had been reported. This most recent report indicates that this type of injury may be more common than officials initially suspected.

So far, no specific brand of grill-cleaning brush has been identified as more likely to shed bristles, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is currently studying data on injuries related to these products to see whether some might be more dangerous than others.

© Food Safety News
  • Tony

    Just because you check for bristles, doesn’t mean you’ll find them all. I threw away two wire grill brushes (one used and one brand new) after a wire bristle lodged in my wife’s throat two years ago. Fortunately, we were able to remove the wire at home without having making a trip to the ER. There are plenty of safer alternatives for grill cleaning.

  • Tony states above “There are plenty of safer alternatives for grill cleaning”. What are they, besides soap and water?
    John Munsell

  • Tony

    There are several makers of grill scrubbers that rely on synthetic pads to provide scouring or scrubbing action. There are also scrubber sponges with similar designed scouring action. Also, copper scrubbers work well in my experience. O’Cedar and Scotch Brite are two national brands that sell all three types, there are many other brands.

  • Tony states above “There are plenty of safer alternatives for grill cleaning”. What are they, besides soap and water?
    John Munsell

    • Mike

      The CharGone Tool works well. You can get one at Chargone.com

  • Minkpuppy

    Brillo and SOS pads work well also. I can’t remember which but one of them has a synthetic scrub pad option as well. I bought them once and haven’t found them again since.

  • Amypia

    On 8/27/12 I was preparing dinner with my fiancé.    He was making hamburgers and brats on the
    grill and I was cooking French Fries in the oven.     Since the Hamburgers and Brats were done
    before the French Fries, my fiancé “Chris” cut up one of the brats for us to
    snack on until rest of our dinner was ready.

    As soon as I bit into a piece of the brat I knew something
    was wrong.   I could feel something
    cutting me, from inside my throat.  I
    starting yelling at Chris that “Something is in my throat” It’s in my throat!!!!  OMG it’s in my throat!!

    I went thru 3 surgeries with no success.  This Bristle is still stuck in the soft tissue of my throat.  I have doctor and hospital bills totaling over $250,000.00.   I have a scar on my neck from the 3rd surgery. 
    These bristles are very small and hard to see.  
    Be Smart don’t use Grill Brushes  –  PERIOD…   It’s not worth the risk ….

    • Tom

      CharGone.com has a new grill scraper that doesn’t have wire bristles. So sorry to hear what happened.

  • thnkn my lucky stars!!

    Last night we grill some link sausage to put on top of our spaghetti. While chewing, I noticed a sharp glass-like pinch in the front of throat. Freaking out I ran the bathroom and gargled some water, while trying not to swallow. After countless gargles, the object finally made its way back to my mouth. I grabbed it with my fingers only to notice that it turned out to be a 2 inch grill-brush bristle!!!! I can’t stop thinking bout the nightmare, had I swallowed that. THROWING OUT MY GRILL BRUSH AS WE SPEAK. Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences with us. :))